My Move to Japan

As many of you now know, I was recently offered a job teaching English to children in Japan. It is something that I am incredibly excited about and so I thought it would be a good idea to write about  what led me to the decision, as well as what I hope to gain out of living and teaching in another country.

The job was not something that I just decided on one day, it actually came as the result of a huge amount of hard work and determination over the past 18 months. Having studied Filmmaking & Creative Writing at university, I graduated in 2011 with the intention of working in the film industry, starting off as a runner and working my way up through the ranks, all-the-while working on my screenwriting which is my true passion.

Unfortunately the economy had other ideas, and the job field which was already hard enough to get a foot into became near on impossible. I dabbled in odd freelance work here and there but the jobs became fewer and further between. I had trouble even getting interviews for expenses paid internships, couldn’t afford to take unpaid ones and I knew I need to reconsider what I was doing as a result.

During this period people would constantly say to me things like “Why don’t you try teaching?” and “Your passion would make you a really good teacher” and to be perfectly honest it was something that I had always considered in the back of my mind as another option for a career. Having said that, I knew that if I started I would find it very hard to pursue one of my other goals which is to travel as much as possible and see the world.

I’ve always wanted to live in other countries – I got to do so during my second year at university when I studied in New York for 6 months, however this was another English speaking location and extremely similar to London. Despite the incredible experience I had there -which I wouldn’t trade for a second- I’ve always wanted to live somewhere that I was pretty much completely out of my element in terms of language and culture. Firstly because I wanted to experience something very new to me, but also because I wanted to see how far I could push myself to learn new things such as a language and the history of a country.

As for what country I wanted it to be, it was a no-brainer. It was Japan and always going to be. I’ve wanted to go there for such a long time as I love so much about the culture. It’s funny actually – during my interview for the job the interviewer asked what first made me want to go to Japan and I told her the truth: I watched Lost In Translation at the cinema aged 14 and instead of taking away the loneliness that the characters are experiencing, I instead was mesmerised by the visuals of Tokyo and Kyoto. This caused the interviewer to laugh as she then told me that most people say Pokemon was the thing that started their passion for Japan. Even beyond that though, the entire country looks beautiful, I love the food, and over the years have become a fan of lots of the media in terms of anime and manga.

Having taken everything into consideration in terms of teaching and travelling, I realised that there was a way that I could still do all of it without any compromising. I remembered that there was something called TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) in which I could not only travel and live in another country but teach. Upon researching in depth I found out that all I needed was to do a month long course after which I would receive a certificate that would let me teach anywhere in the world. Sounds easy enough, right? Well I thought so too, but what followed proved me very wrong.

To begin with, I needed to work to save up enough to not only do the course, but to also cover travel expenses, as well as enough to set myself up for when I eventually move. I got myself a retail job and worked as many hours as I could for about 6 months, scraping together any money that I could. When I came close to having enough I then applied to and was accepted on the TEFL course.

I went with a course called Trinity TESOL which would provide me with 130 hours of teacher training, including me actually teaching lessons. It is one of the most highly regarded in the industry and so I knew I was making the right decision. What I took for granted was just how much work would be involved. I can safely say that it was the hardest I have ever had to work at anything in my life, and that includes my dissertation for university. There were days where I would start at 9am and finish at 7pm, to then come home and write up coursework and prepare the next days lesson before finishing at 4am, only to have to be up at 7am to head off to the classes. Don’t take any of this the wrong way however, it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done and I believe that so much of what I learnt will stick with me throughout my teaching career.

After completing that all I wanted to do was rest – and I did for a week or so, but after that it was back to pursuing my goal. I did a ton of research into what teaching companies there were in Japan, deciding whether I was better suited to an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) position, or whether working at an Eikaiwa (English Conversation School) would be better for me. I weighed a lot of pros and cons of both and ultimately decided that applying to Eikaiwas would be better because I preferred the working hours and got to work at a number of different schools this way, which would let me see more of Japan as I travel to them. As for the one that I decided on, I’m going to wait to talk about it until I’m actually out there working as I’m still not clear on their policy of discussing the company.

I applied for the job, got offered an interview for the following week, and received a job offer three days after that. In the span of ten days I found out that I was now going to be a teacher in Japan. So while it was a long journey to get there, everything started to fall into place at once and is something that I’m so relieved about, especially after what happened with my previous job applications.

So now I’m off to Japan in May, feeling extremely unprepared in the language, slightly nervous but in a good way and extremely excited for what’s to come. It’s going to be a whole new way of life for me and I see that as something to look forward to. I don’t know what will happen but I will continue to write about my experiences along the way, as well as photograph and video as much as possible.

This ended up being an extreme amount longer than I had originally intended but I found there was a lot of necessary things that needed to be written as I went along. If you’ve read it all I hope you found it interesting. If you have any questions feel free to comment below or send me a message and I’ll be glad to help out.

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